So, you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and it’s all a bit daunting. You may not be sure what it means or what impact it will have on your life. The truth is, hypothyroidism in almost all cases is a lifelong condition, that requires medication every day for the rest of your life and quite often other lifestyle changes to help manage it.
But it doesn’t have to feel like a death sentence. You can still live a good quality, full life with hypothyroidism.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to find a good thyroid doctor. An endocrinologist, GP, functional practitioner, naturopath etc. or even a combination, can help you on your way to recovery. Thyroid patients find that some types of medical professionals are better than others when it comes to treating their underactive thyroid, but it’s up to you to find what works for you and your health.
Endocrinologists and GP’s tend be much more conventional in their approach to treating hypothyroidism, including the use of T4-only synthetic medication alone. Functionals and naturopaths tend to consider supplements, diet and lifestyle changes, as well as the other thyroid medication options. You need to make it a priority to find what you need, to feel better, and if you find that it’s all too expensive, get reading up on research yourself and educate and empower yourself to become your own thyroid advocate. It’s not ideal, but many thyroid patients are doing this these days, including myself. We learn how to interpret our own lab tests, ordering our own tests (not as expensive you think), sourcing our own medication and implementing new supplements or lifestyle/dietary changes where we see fit. It can take longer to see results this way, compared to going down the route of paying a medical professional with more experience and often knowledge, but sometimes it’s the only option for some patients.
Reading up on hypothyroidism and related conditions in books, articles, medical journals etc. will give you the knowledge you need to become your own advocate and make some changes. You’ll feel empowered and more in control of your health, too.
Finding the right thyroid medication and your optimal dosage is also crucial. It may require some experimenting and patience before you find your sweet spot, and other factors such as sex hormone imbalances and abnormal cortisol levels can also affect it. Most conventional doctors and endocrinologists only prescribe T4-only medications such as Levothyroxine or Synthroid, which is the inactive thyroid hormone T4, and hope your body converts it to the active thyroid hormone T3, but a lot of us have trouble converting. So you’ll need to consider other thyroid medications such as synthetic T3 and natural desiccated thyroid. These can be prescribed, but many patients are now taking to self-sourcing their own, although this is by no means ideal and can be dangerous.
Living a full life also means having a good social and support network around you, to help when the times get tough and provide emotional and physical help and support. Friends, family, neighbours, coworkers etc. should all be able to offer some kind of support or help to you and you’ll need to learn to utilise this. Be honest with them about how you’re doing and how bad thyroid disease can affect you. Get them to read this. If you’re a parent with hypothyroidism, this can be extremely difficult to cope with at times, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Socialising when you can will help to combat feeling lonely or isolated, and although it’s not always easy to maintain a social life whilst having thyroid disease, you should plan it in to a schedule.
Online groups and forums can also provide you with help, support, advice and even useful information to help you on your way to recovery, too. Forums are known for patients empowering other patients, giving them useful sources of information and helping you realise that you’re not alone in this battle.
With this in mind, you’ll also want to consider removing the people from your life who do the opposite. The energy suckers, the ones who bring you down or make you feel like crap. If they cause you any kind of stress or negative emotions, they won’t help you in managing a condition that is so heavily linked to your stress glands, the adrenals.
Stress overworks the adrenal glands, which work in balance with the thyroid gland. Many people with hypothyroidism therefore, also have adrenal dysfunction. You’ll need to implement things to encourage good adrenal health, such as relaxation, a good bedtime routine, a good diet and even supplements of essential vitamins and minerals.
Gentle exercise can also be enjoyable and give you a sense of a full, active life and get you out the house. Many people with hypothyroidism enjoy gentle walks, yoga, pilates and swimming. Getting some fresh air and a change of scenery can be very beneficial. Just be sure to listen to your body and take it at your own pace.
Ensure you keep making time for hobbies, whether it includes painting, adult colouring books, sewing, reading, listening to music, photography, writing stories etc. to help keep a good work-life balance, if you also work. If you do work, consider what would make it easier for you to maintain your job but also good health. E.g. a space heater under your desk, back support on your chair, regular breaks throughout the day from your computer screen and warm drinks often. Chat to your line manager about how you can minimise the stress caused by work.
Keep in touch with friends and try to maintain as best a social life as possible. Build a network of support.
Also implement a good self care routine. Bubble baths or Epsom salt baths, face masks, painting your nails, reading, massages, can really help us to feel more looked after. Dedicate some time to nourish and pamper yourself. It’s easy to forget to do this.
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I also run a group for the spouses, partners and other halves of hypothyroid patients, called Hypothyroid Patients Other Halves – Support & Advice Group. This is for the other halves only and not patients.